The 1930s are known for highlighting beautiful lines in cars, an era when constructors formed their automobiles like fashion designers dressed their models. The new aesthetic came from an awareness of the importance of shape and profiling in cars. The goal was also to lower fuel consumption, with Peugeot the perfect example of how both resulted in a car maker's new visual identity.
The creation of Peugeot's "Fuseau Sochaux" series ushered in a new design by Henri Thomas. The new shape had one clear aim: to save fuel after the economic crisis of 1929. The French manufacturer claimed a streamlined four-cylinder must have the performance of a traditional six-cylinder. The corners of the grill and fenders were rounded to create the desired shape.
The Peugeot 402 and 302 were the first ambassadors of the new look set to appear at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Until then, car aerodynamics had been anything but an exact science. But, that all changed thanks to the engineering expertise of Charles Deutsch who applied aerodynamic theories to his racing cars and significantly contributed to the advancement of car design.
Deutsch's CDs were the first cars tested in a wind tunnel to validate aerodynamics. These cars stunned the crowd at the 24 Hours circuit and foreshadowed the fastest prototypes of the 1970s. Many features designed and tested at Le Mans by Deutsch and his teams in the 1960s are still noticeable today on racing cars.
These contributions were decisive in increasing performance, including exceeding 400 kph (without taking off) in the Mulsanne Straight in 1988. One of the essential aerodynamic elements on today's cars is the rear wing to keep the car to the ground. However, this component is nowhere to be found on the future Peugeot 9X8. So, what aerodynamic innovation does the French manufacturer have in store?
The temporary Peugeot Exhibition: Allure Le Mans is available for viewing at the 24 Hours Museum until 30 September.
For more info, go to the official 24 Hours Museum website.